The HumanFIRST (Human Factors Interdisciplinary Research in Safety and Transportation) Laboratory, established in 2001, is a human factors research laboratory at the University of Minnesota. A facility of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, it is also affiliated with the Roadway Safety Institute, the Region 5 University Transportation Center.

The mission of the HumanFIRST Lab is to reduce the rate of injurious and fatal crashes by improving the understanding of driver behavior and by supporting the design and evaluation of usable intelligent transportation systems. As our name implies, the HumanFIRST research strategy is based on a driver-centered approach, considering the "human first" within the transportation system in order to improve safety.

Our core staff of transportation research specialists, including psychologists, computer scientists, and civil and mechanical engineers, gives the HumanFIRST Lab a broad range of research capabilities. This core group is linked to a wide interdisciplinary network of experts in basic and applied sciences throughout the University of Minnesota to provide a flexible and comprehensive research capacity. Through the strategic appointment of visiting scientists and institutions worldwide, the HumanFIRST Lab is connected with research developments on the world stage.

Considering the human first

The human factors studies carried out by HumanFIRST focus on understanding how humans interact with the many technologies and environmental factors that influence driving performance. Understanding these interactions is critical to ensuring that new technologies are safe as well as effective, as well as to improving the safety and efficiency of existing systems.

Research in the HumanFIRST Lab seeks to propose, design, and evaluate innovative technologies to improve transportation safety based on a scientific understanding of driver performance and the psychological processes associated with traffic crashes. This research considers how drivers will accept and use new technologies, while also considering the possibility of producing undesirable driver responses and adaptations (such as distraction, complacency, fatigue, or increased risk taking) that could undermine the goal of improved safety.

Integration with Roadway Safety Institute research activities

Roadway Safety Institute wordmark

The HumanFIRST Lab is one of several laboratories and dedicated research facilities affiliated with the Roadway Safety Institute. Collaboration with these labs and facilities is a key component of the HumanFIRST Lab's research approach.

The Roadway Safety Institute was established as the Region 5 University Transportation Center (UTC) in 2013. Driven by the goal of preventing crashes to reduce fatalities and life-changing injuries, the Institute conducts research on regional issues related to traffic safety systems and high-risk road users. The Institute is housed within the University of Minnesota's Center for Transportation Studies, which supports the management, development and delivery of the Institute's programs and administrative functions.

Other research facilities affiliated with the Roadway Safety Institute include:

  • The Minnesota Traffic Observatory, focusing on testing and evaluation of new transportation management and operational strategies and traveler information technologies.
  • The Intelligent Vehicles Laboratory, dedicated to the development of in-vehicle technologies including driver assistive systems for automobiles, transit, and emergency vehicles.

By collaborating with these facilities, the HumanFIRST Lab provides the Roadway Safety Institute with state-of-the-art human factors integration as it works to improve roadway safety through user-centered transportation systems.